It's only a matter of days - or even hours - before the world knows if LeBron James will be playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers or Los Angeles Lakers next season. It doesn't mean he won't return to the Cavaliers. You remember, the report that had James texting the Warriors' Kevin Durant suggesting they play together on the Lakers?
According to ESPN, James declined a $35.6 million player option for the 2018-19 season to test the open market.
That was the path his friend Chris Paul took last summer when he opted into his contract with the Los Angeles Clippers and was then traded to the Houston Rockets. ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reported this week that James would not be seeking out elaborate pitch meetings during the free-agency process. The Cavaliers can offer him a max deal of $205 million over five years ($41 million annually), while another team can max out at $152 million over four years ($38 million). And with rumors that George might actually remain with the Thunder instead of going to his hometown Lakers, the ripple effect may find its way to LeBron. He has a $25.6 million option for the following year; the Cavs could trade him next summer if he picks up the option, or otherwise be clear of his salary in 2019-20 if he doesn't pick up his option.
Specifically, the Lakers have not made the playoffs since 2012-13, but James would nearly certainly help end that drought and generate the additional revenue that comes along with playing postseason games.
And the Philadelphia 76ers reportedly have a good chance at landing arguably the NBA's top player of the past 15 years. If the Sixers make that trade, they probably wouldn't be able to add James, as well.
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Without any additional roster moves, losing James via free agency would drop the team below the league's $123 million luxury tax line, which would save owner Dan Gilbert from paying further tax penalties and give the Cavs more flexibility in acquiring players.
The 33-year-old averaged 27.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 9.1 assists and 1.4 steals and shot 54.2 percent from the field this past season.
The four-time MVP is the headliner of a major free agency class.
Where James goes could have a seismic impact on the National Basketball Association landscape.